Volunteers’ Week 2019: How volunteering helped me upskill on my journey to President
Saturday 1 – Friday 7 June is Volunteers’ Week in the UK – a chance to celebrate the contributions that millions of people make across the land on a daily basis.
Vernon Anderson is AAT’s 38th President. Volunteering has been an important part of his life and has helped him develop various general skills which has, in turn, accelerated his career path to the top.
I took AAT qualifications back in 2004, to help my then-role as a public sector finance officer. I’ve been a council member of AAT for several years as a result, but it has been my participation in AAT branch events that I think has made the most difference, both to myself and to others in the accounting industry.
I have been both committee member and chairperson for AAT’s Bristol Branch for more than six years. There was a short period of absence due to relocating to Cornwall for work; however during that two year gap, I took on the role of chairperson at the launch of the Cornwall branch before moving back to the Bristol branch. In total I have spent around ten years being involved within the branch network.
I am naturally a shy person, and my reason for volunteering was twofold. Partly, it was to help develop my interpersonal skills in networking with like-minded people. In addition, I have always wanted to make a difference, as I believe AAT is an excellent organisation that really supports its members, and provides so many opportunities for students to change – not only their careers but often their lives.
It was not long after my second involvement with AAT’s Bristol branch before I took on the role of Chairman, which worked well as I was also a chief executive of a town council and had a similar role: working with committees, producing minutes, working together with many different people and organisations, and giving presentations. I wanted to use my business skills to help the local branch grow, but it also helped me personally to improve my networking and presentation skills.
My work has included meeting and greeting members, booking speakers and venues, preparing a yearly schedule of subjects, delegating roles to committee members, giving presentations at local colleges to encourage students to become involved in accountancy and dealing with members’ questions.
Volunteer involvement provides so many opportunities both with their career and also personally. They would gain many new skills and hopefully also make many friends in the process.
Attending a local branch event, if your professional body offers these, is a great place to start. Individuals can make new friends, swap knowledge and ideas, keep their CPD [continuing professional development] up-to-date by learning new skills, gain confidence by liaising with other accounting technicians, and sometimes also employment if another member has a vacancy in their business. Volunteers also often benefit from free support and training to help develop and manage their own committees throughout branch networks.
Getting involved with a local branch is a chance to meet like-minded people and network. The enthusiasm of the AAT Bristol branch’s committee was enough to convince me to join them. Having visited so many other branches it is so uplifting and inspiring to see how so many volunteers freely give their time to help others in delivering the AAT’s charitable objective of promoting education within the bookkeeping and accountancy sector.
AAT is running a content programme designed to help finance professionals upskill for the future, as part of its #AATPowerUp series. For more on the #AATPowerUp Business Skills programme, visit AAT Comment.